Immigration and the Election 52

The Conservative Party is well and truly reverting to type in its efforts to beat back the Lib Dems and win an overall majority. Every time I see a Tory on television, they are banging on about immigration and putting more people in jail. I am rather grateful to the election campaign for reminding me just how unpleasant the Tories really are.

Whatever your views, I do not see how anybody can disagree that the Lib Dems deserve credit for bringing out into the open the question of what we do about Britian’s illegal immigrants. I have long argued for an amnesty.

Nobody has attempted to answer Nick Clegg’s question as to what you do with these illegal immigrants if you do not regularise them. In the second debate David Cameron interjected

“You deport them” to which Nick Clegg replied “You do not even know where they live”.

The problem is immense. The Tories are repeatedly claiming that the Lib Dem amnesty would apply to 600,000 people and their potential partners. I do not know what the Tories mean by the figure – is it meant to be illegal immigrants who have been here more than ten years, as in the Lib Dem proposal? As a total for illegal immigrants, it is too small. By definition nobody knows the exact total, but clues like money transfer remittances show it is well over a million.

Is Cameron seriously suggesting we deport over a million people? To find them would require a security operation and security service powers that would destroy civil liberties in this country forever. You would need vast internment camps. You would need countries willing to take them back, and then at least 4,000 return jumbo jet flights full of coerced prisoners.

You would, of course, also cause the total collapse of the hotel and hospitality, catering, cleaning service, agriculture and domestic service industries in this country, with selective shortages in areas of computing, construction and other skilled work also.

Most people in London know illegal immigrants. Round here, they are our neighbours. In the kind of places the Camerons and Baroness Scotland live, they are the maids. Who is serving and cooking the restaurant food, and scrubbing the toilets? It is a nonsense to pretend it is not happening.

There are three alternatives – an amnesty, a Nazi scale round-up and deportation programme, or we pretend it is not happening and continue to exploit these people who are working, usually through exploitative agencies, at below the minimum wage.

The reason that immigration from non-EU countries got out of control is very poor visa issuing decisions in visa sections abroad. A quite extraordinary amount of that was conditioned by the government’s strange tolerance, for a decade, of literally hundreds of entirely bogus language schools, and other colleges offering very low level further education courses. But the majority of illegal immigrants entered as visitors.

Perhaps the most important factor – and one I have not seen commented on anywhere – has been the catastrophic decline in the staffing of visa sections abroad. Here I speak from experience, as somebody who has line managed two visa sections, one of them then the fifth biggest in the world (Accra). In all I worked in four visa posts, and was literally manning the barricades at the British High Commission in Lagos on the first day that Nigerians needed visas to come to the UK.

There has been a reduction of colossal proportions in the number of visa applications abroad which are ever seen by a full time career immigration officer. Currently the percentage of visa issue decisions abroad taken by a career immigration officer is below 5%.

In much of the world, receipt of visa applications and initial sift has been privatised, with Tier 1 issues (no problem, straight visa) being agreed by young unqualified staff with no qualifications, either 2 or 3 weeks training, and on very low salaries.

Where applications do come to regular civil service staff for decision, the grade, age, qualification, salary scale and experience of those staff are much lower than they used to be. UK Visas is a joint FCO/Home Office(UKBA) operation. When I first was involved in visa sections, all visa issues were decided at the lowest at what was then called Grade 9 executive level. Now most front line visa staff are what used to be called Grade 10 clerical level. I have managed staff engaged in issuing and refusing visas, whose judgement I would not trust in deciding what class to post a letter.

I would stress that the numerous terrible decisions being made are by no means all issues. It is bad decision making, not one way decision making, which is the problem. Many a British business has lost a contract due to the inexplicable refusal of a visa to an important foreign visitor for them.

The same delegation of visa work to lower pay grades affects the immigration service/UKBA. It surprises people when I say that some of the most intelligent and best read people I ever worked with were senior immigration officers. Paul Williams and Colin Eborall I hope will not mind me mentioning them in this context, and both went on to be Chief Immigration Officers at Heathrow and higher. Like many other immigration officers I worked with, they made a great effort to understand the culture of the people in the country where they were based, and they made sensible decisions without a drop of prejudice.

But the number of seasoned career immigration officers posted abroad has fallen drastically as a percentage of the staff of visa sections, quite simply due to purblind cost cutting. The emphasis is all on what it costs to process a visa, even though those costs are self-evidently as nought compared to the cost to the economy of bad decisions.

Finally, I would say that I have no doubt that New Labour allowed immigrant communities to expand massively quite deliberately, as they know they benefit in elections.

Immigration. It needs an amnesty for those already here, and firm controls on new immigration administered by a truly professional and competent cadre of immigration officers. The problem is not those who apply as migrants, for which I have no great argument with the points system. Immigration is good for the UK and good for the economy. There will continue to be large scale immigration from the EU for some time yet.

The problem is those who apply as visitors or low level students and then become illegal immigrants. What we need to be able better to do is distinguish between genuine visitors and students, and those whose intention is to immigrate. That is the biggest problem, and that is where it is not rules or laws that need to be changed, but the civil service that needs to be better staffed and resourced.

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52 thoughts on “Immigration and the Election

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  • brian

    If only the politicians on the radio were able to speak with the honesty of this blog. Only Lib Dems (and Boris Johnson) seem ready to tackle this from the mainstream. In a recent tv debate I thought the Lib Dem man struggled to answer two criticisms of the amnesty policy. Firstly how do you know someone’s been an illegal for ten years and not eight years? Secondly how do you stop other future illegal immigrants being encouraged by the idea that if you can keep yourself hidden for long enough there will be an amnesty.

  • Abe Rene

    To me this is one of the strongest reasons for voting Lib Dem. It is also an important indicator of a will to promote humaneness in society, and fight exploitation.

  • Chris Dooley

    The Lib-Dem amnesty seems a reasonable response to try stop the problem of criminal expolitation and bring the hidden underclass into the mainstream.

    The Lab/Con shouts that it will only encourage more illegal immigration also seem fair, unless the lib-dems can back up their amnesty with much tighter border controls and imigration policy for the future.

  • Rick

    Another aspect of this is the cases of failed asylum seekers, often from war-zones or stateless people who have been denied any form of leave, but it is impossible for them to be deported or return to their countries. In some cases they have no nationality at all. In other cases, they are simply not able to get the correct documents to return, having not lived in their country of nationality for many years. In yet other cases, they do not want to return to an active warzone and the U.K is not currently able to forcibly deport people to some of these countries which are so dangerous. But rather than ackowledge this reality and grant some kind of at least temporary status the U.K position is currently to refuse them all forms of leave and make them destitute. It is hoped that in so doing they will be forced to take voluntary return. The thing is, if you are, for example, a single woman from Somalia, being destitute in London, is probably a less worse option than being destitute on the streets of Mogadishu. This is a recipe for disaster and leads to whole communities of people in our society with no rights, vunerable to exploitation. In some cases the Home Office seems to accept that people can’t be returned, and provides them with hard-case asylum support on a kind of ongoing indefinate basis without doing anything to regularise their status and allow them to work legally. People have ended up in this situation for years. But the Government of the day can never admit this situation, as it is not politically popular. Sooner or later something will have to be done-so it is good that the Lib Dems have the guts to raise this issue…

  • Tristan

    If people are coming here ‘illegally’ then surely that indicates that its too difficult for people to come here to meet labour demands.

    Immigration really is a place where they Tories ‘free’ market credentials totally fail – you cannot have a free market without free movement of labour.

    I’m surprised you can support strong immigration controls- but I suppose its in the interests of your previous profession…

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Craig said, “Every time I see a Tory on television, they are banging on about immigration and putting more people in jail.”

    Such actions reveal the fragmentation of the Tory inner circle by the rapidly tightening polls such that image supremo and son of a Hungarian immigrant himself, Localist Steve Hilton’s attempts to win over Cameron from the meticulous planning and criticisms of George Osborne.

    For instance Osborne thought that Hilton’s deferred approach to spending cuts would “make us look weak”.

    Since Hilton embarked on the “hug a hoodie” Webcameron video blogs and the “Dave” husky-hugging, wind-turbine-installing, concerned-modern-citizen approach which Osborne in private ridiculed as a “stunt,” many Tories regard Hilton as an archetypally Blairite figure with close friends such as Allan and No 10 aide Ben Wegg-Prosser.

    It was Hilton who suggested tackling teenage ‘binge drinking’ by telling youngsters they are ‘abnormal’ if they have ‘more than four beers a week’.

    £200,000 a year Hilton lives in America and travels to the UK to advise Cameron. He strongly advocates the benefits of moving power locally and involving local church groups as community leaders who apply for money from the ‘Big Society Bank’ to fund, for instance, nursery groups using local church halls so that single mothers can work without apparent government aid. However any formal association of churches is rejected. The idea that there can’t be more than one legitimate institutionally visible church at one given location I believe will not work in an increasingly multi-cultural Britain.

    Hilton devised a poster campaign focusing on the Tory leader as a ‘saviour’ and featuring a heavily airbrushed Cameron. He used the wording, “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”, but Osborne said it made Cameron look too glib and presumptuous. Yet we witness the even more presumptuous statement of “measuring up the curtains for No.10.”

    Hilton has tried hard to destroy the Tory image as a wealthy, self-serving tribe. The Ashcroft “non-dom” affair irritated Hilton. He told Cameron that we had to pull together or fall apart.

    We are now witnessing this avalanche of disagreement on the public stage and Hilton is powerless to ‘bring it all together’ before Thurday.

    The ‘demon eyes’ of the Blair poster devised by Hilton are now seen by the British public as belonging to Cameron.

  • Historyscoper

    While many immigrants are easily capable of assimilation, when it comes to Muslim immigrants, the problem is that they bring Islam and Sharia with them, along with a supremacist and intolerant mindset, making it difficult if not impossible for them to assimilate into British society, instead creating de facto Sharia ghettos. Where did Islam come from and how did it get intolerant and supremacist? Find out by studying Islam’s complete history free online with the Historyscoper at

  • writerman

    Views like Craig’s, and people with Craig’s knowledge and intelligence, and genuine humanity; even though he is a Liberal (only joking!); are filtered out of political debate in modern Britain. It’s indicative that a mild candidate like Clegg is perceived as “radical” and an alternative, compared to the two other “conservative” leaders, which considering how reactionary they are is hardly surprising.

    In reality we now have three conservative parties competing for political power, and if one steps back a bit, the differences between them are cosmetic; style, emphasis, rhetoric.

  • Alfred

    “There are three alternatives – an amnesty, a Nazi scale round-up and deportation programme…”

    The British used to be prone to view the world in terms of wogs, wops, and nignogs on the one hand, and superior white people on the other hand. Now they are prone to see the world in terms of homophobes, sexists, racists, and Nazis on the one hand and superior liberal people on the other hand. Both views are false, silly and dangerous.

    To argue that dealing with law breakers according to the law is somehow being Nazi is idiotic.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    You are talking rubbish Historyscoper!

    We learned from Gordon Brown’s encounter with a very nice elderly lady that Eastern European immigrants are causing our youngsters to be frustrated in their job hunting. Certainly this is the case in Buckinghamshire were Bulgarian and Hungarian immigrants are prepared to work for less than minimum wage.

    The majority of Muslims in my area own businesses such as Kebab take-aways, corner shops, restaurants and clothes outlets. Sharia law does not affect my local community and to suggest these people have a supremacist and intolerant mindset is insulting, unjust and insolent.

  • Jon

    I think the immigration amnesty is one of the major plus-points of voting Lib Dem. It’s a brave platform to put to a xenophobic and europhobic Britain, but the party will have looked at how this translates to support at the polls, and presumably found it positive on balance.

    I’m also agreed with the consensus here – that the Tories are showing their nasty colours and that their future spending cuts will be ideological on top of necessary.

    But I hear from a friend that the FT has warned that most of us have no idea of the true scale of the economic cutbacks that the next party has in store for us. They are likely to last only one term in office since they will prove hugely unpopular, and the next few years will be marked with Greece-style social unrest.

    Given the Lib Dems are in favour of this, rather than the radical taxation required to recoup our losses from the banks and the non-doms, I wonder if voting for them now would provide endorsement of their future cutbacks.

    I worry too that they’re too biased in favour of Israel, too pro-nuclear, and their support for PFI and the war in Afghanistan is also regressive. The Morning Star did a good piece on this yesterday.

    This isn’t intended to be an anti-Lib Dem piece – just that we may vote for them now to turf out Labour only to find we’ve endorsed a forthcoming right-wing agenda (potentially, in coalition with the Tories).

    I am still undecided.

  • Steelback

    Mass non-white immigration and wars have been the preferred means of elite-managed social engineering practised in first the US then Europe.

    Such societal remodelling entrenches the elite power base by eroding each nation’s sovereign status,and entrapping governments and citizens in an infinite cycle of debt slavery and inflation.

    For them it’s a win-win situation for us-well we lost the will to live anyway didn’t we?

    I mean when the educational progress of Polish children (to name just one migrant group)can overtake their British rivals within the space of a couple of school terms we know our own people now have little capacity to compete.

    State education actually handicaps British children who are far more vulnerable to the near ubiquitous negative peer-group pressure that exists in them than migrants.

    The binding internal cohesion of family groups thoroughly supportive of education and the possibilities for advancement it can offer no longer exists across wide swathes of the indigenous community in Britain.

    While,like many,I feel miffed that I was never consulted re-the merits of the multi-cultural society,and mightily irritated by the PC liberal brigade who insist on the absorptive capacity of our country,I actually welcome all newcomers to our shores.

    They will always out-compete the violent drug-addled welfare-dependent work-shy British proletariat and its revolting offspring in any race to better themselves.

    My welcome extends to the muslims whose countries we colonized or have made hell-holes by attacking them militarily or economically and to the East Europeans too.I have immense respect for their cultures and their attempts to better themselves by migrating to a new country.

    Absorptive capacity of Britain’s or any other host country should be a matter of maximizing the benefits of which there are many and minimizing the costs of immigration.

  • StuMat

    Thanks for the link Suhayl – the article really struck a chord actually.

    I’ve been deeply disappointed with the tone of the debates on immigration during the leaders debates and the campaign in general. To hear a Labour Prime Minister talk proudly of his determination to ‘ban unskilled workers’ from the UK, for instance, truly shocked me. As Craig points out, migrant workers have kept so many sectors of our economy afloat in recent times and enriched our society in so many other ways. Furthermore, as in most of the western world, our population is ageing and we will need more people of working age in coming years – indeed, we may find ourselves competing in the future for migrant labour with our European neighbours.

    I don’t think Nick Clegg has gone far enough in trying to counter the xenophobia ingrained in debates about immigration. At least he has recognised the importance of the geographical distribution of population and encouraging people to move to areas where there is excess capacity. The Scottish Government, for example, is actively seeking to increase its population. And, as my Polish girlfriend points out to me, if they want to encourage workers to move to certain parts of the UK, introducing more direct flights from Polish cities to these areas would have a huge impact.

    But I think the thrust of Yasmine Alibhai-Brown’s article is spot-on – we like to think of our society as open and fair, while our politicians have devoted so much of their energy debating how we can best keep people, with different religious and social outlooks, out.

    Perhaps we can encourage more of our young people to learn other languages, live abroad and open their minds a little? Maybe then will we realise that we have so much to gain from embracing other cultures and respecting other attitudes to life, and so little to fear.

  • Jon

    @Alfred – Craig did not suggest that deporting illegal immigrants is wrong in itself. But on this scale, it would be Nazi to do so i.e. it would require a fascist level of state control, surveillance and the wholesale destruction of liberty in order to determine where the immigrants are, to round them up in dawn raids, to intern them in camps, and to deport them.

  • Alfred


    I don’t think the line of reasoning you offer makes much sense. Obviously, the enforcement of law must be conducted lawfully, and in which case, it would not result in the destruction of liberty.

    Anyway, you’ve already got a surveillance state. Will the Lib-Dems do away with that? If so, I support them in it.

  • Clark

    You can’t just rip about a million people out of the UK. Each person is linked to other people, it’s a network, a society, and everyone is part of it whether they are here legally or otherwise. The problem should never have been permitted to develop, but now that it has, an amnesty is a sensible first step.

    Immigration is usually percieved as a one-way process of people arriving and none leaving. I don’t know the figures but this must be nonsense; surely it’s a matter of an imbalance between arrivals and departures.

  • Anonymous


    Re: Freedom Bill

    Thanks very much for the link. There’s a lot to digest there and I will study it at leisure but it seems and excellent idea.

    I am a UK citizen, although I have been away so long I no longer have the right to vote. But maybe I can still sign a petition.



    To be more constructive about the treatment of illegal immigrants, I suggest that they be granted a temporary visa if they turn themselves in before a deadline. That would legalize their position, and provide them time to settle their affairs in Britain, make any claim they might have to refugee status and find out how, once they have returned home, they might apply for permanent residence in Britain. In addition, they might be provided with a resettlement allowance.

    For those failing to turn themselves in, expulsion would, obviously, follow apprehension quite promptly.

  • Anon 00:32

    Apparently the LibDems want to raise CGT to 50% which would be a business killer.

    For savers like me who receive 0% in interest from the bank, I have been forced to invest in various capital markets and any profits from this will also be taxed at 50%. What a load of tossers.

  • glenn

    Alfred wrote:

    “To argue that dealing with law breakers according to the law is somehow being Nazi is idiotic.”

    Surely the Nazis were in full accordance of the law, in everything that they did?

  • Clark


    (I assume that’s your anonymous reply to Jon above)

    I don’t think that’ll work.

    (1) Depending on the time limit of the temporary visa, there could be little incentive to report in. If you’d lived somewhere for years without detection, why turn yourself in if you’d be deported within months?

    (2) Unless uptake was overwhelming (90% or more?) the same logistic problems would hold of locating a huge number of people. Where will you send them? Will those countries accept them?

    I really don’t like this “sling ’em out” approach, and I can’t believe that the Tories are serious – they just think it’s a vote-winner. And it’s unnecessary; people are leaving all the time.

  • Clark

    And Alfred,

    re. your 12:22 comment; it’s all the recent laws that are directly responsible for a huge loss of liberty.

  • Alfred

    “Surely the Nazis were in full accordance of the law, in everything that they did?”

    No. Nazism was the rule of men (or one man) not laws. Hitler ruled by decree. He did whatever he liked, including mass murder.

    There was no law to justify the Blood Purge of 1934 (7,000 victims, including Ernst Rohm, head of the Brown Shirts), and certainly no law to justify the extermination of Jews. There is not even a paper trail on the extermination of Jews.

  • steve

    Easy round them up and ship them home its as easy as that. 95% of all these criminals and it is still and always has been a criminal offence to enter the country illegally or to remain without leave. Are here for economic reasons. I would like to live in a mansion but it dosnt entitle me to go to the nearest mansion and move in with the current occupants. If we give an amnesty. You will let hundreds of thousands of people into the country who we dont know who they are or what they have done previously who obviously are not worried about flouting the law. It will encourage more people to flock into the country in the hope of the next amnsety. All these people and there is at least 500000 of them would then be entitled to bring in wifes husbands and children. This would bump it up to 1500000 where would they all live how could we school all the children how could we treat all the illnesses. I am a realist most of these criminals are using false identities how would they prove they had been in the UK for 10years? Would they pay for the process or would they get it free so all the persons who have paid thousands of pounds to go through the process legally get a refund? And those genuine persons who have tried lawfully to get a visa to marry or settle in the UK but were refused for some silly technicality will they now be allowed to come. Why should criminals be rewarded and those who obey the law be penalised? The process of administering the application would be huge and cost millions the UKBA would be swamped with applications processing would take years and in the meantime other illegals would be neglected whilst all resources would be diverted to the new target of the amnesty. People realise a huge percentage of persons coming to the UK havnt gone back for the last 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of back logged asylum seekers are in the system due to political interference stopping UK Borders doing their job. I am warning you all go down the amnesty route and you will unleash a beast.

    And dont insult me by comparing me with a Nazi that is the last resort of the desperate and ignorant. Keeping our borders secure and maintaining our borders and upholding and enforcing the law is not being a Nazi its just sensible. If you have left your door open deliberately for 10 years letting anyone in then you sell the house dont be surprised if the new owners kick the squatters out.

  • ingo

    Jack decided otherwise last night. Although there was a gathering it was announced that food would not be served as that would be against the electoral law.

    Yhay meant that our informing of the police has had an effect yesterday and that they thought otherwise.

    It also meant that we were better informed than the police and on the ball.

    lets hope that this draws a line under the practises that have marked out so many campaings.

    Thanks again for Craigs foresight and help in these matters. Today and tommorrow the largest amount of postal votes will arrive and we will be alert to the intrecacies of the process.

    Some ballot papers are reissued, something we are not allowed to scrutinise apparently. We can’t ask as to who the spoiled ballot papers belonged to, nor can we see how many extra have been sent to them as a replacement, a massive loophole in the postal vote arrangements large parties can exploit.

    All I can find out is the overall numbers sent out.

    We had a chap come up to us who lives in Little Harwell, he had 4 polling cards come through his door under the same name and the person does not even live there any more, we will find out more today.

  • Freeborn

    What no Holocaust paper trail….are you in denial,Alfred?

    May I remind people that Holocaust denial is an indictable offence in many European states.

    Exactly what lessons can be learned from Nazi resettlement policies for Jews and Slavs is not clear.Probably it’s akin to studying the Gulag and attempting draw lessons from that.

    According to Edwin Black (The Transfer Agreement) the Nazi-Zionist collaboration that resettled German Jews in Palestine during the 1930s laid the economic and political foundations for the the state of Israel.

    It was the US and UK who sought to stem the flow of Jews to Palestine in this period.

    On the Holocaust paper trail-curiously enough,though Hannah Arendt devoted a whole chapter of Eichmann in Jerusalem to the Wansee Conference whence the Final Solution supposedly was organized by Heydrich with Eichmann in attendance-she cited no evidence to support the idea that the Nazis had decided on any extermination policy at this point.

    In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt stated that Eichmann was actually not an anti-semite.Many sources likewise have noted Eichamnn’s fluency in Hebrew,his willingness to exchange Jews for money and war

    materiel.Still others have insisted that Eichmann was Jewish himself.

    In the thousands of pages re-WW2 in the biographies of Eisenhower,Churchill and De Gaulle no mention of a Holocaust against the Jews is mentioned.

    No paper trail there either.

    Holocaust propaganda was in no small way a product of Soviet post-WW2 PR which dovetailed neatly with Anglo-American accounts about their having fought the “good war”.

  • technicolour

    “They will always out-compete the violent drug-addled welfare-dependent work-shy British proletariat and its revolting offspring in any race to better themselves.”

    Gosh that’s so…Nick Griffin.He also despises the white working class:

    And that’s what really pisses me off about the BNP. They openly despise the people they claim to represent. Like Daily Mail journalists, in fact. Those poor, largely decent & peaceful people, suckered and sold down the river, again.

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